Sweet six-cess: Underdog Devils keep dynasty alive

The Poly Prep dynasty might not have been dead, but it was certainly on life support.

All the stars from five New York State Association of Independent Schools Athletic Association championship teams graduated. The Blue Devils lost four league games this season after not tasting defeat for five straight years. They finished third in the Ivy League after winning the crown the last five seasons.

Yet somehow, someway, after nine gut-churning innings of softball, Poly Prep did it all again.

“This,” coach Mildred Piscopo said, “will definitely stand out.”

After blowing a wild game open with seven runs in the ninth, No. 3 Poly Prep defeated top-seed Horace Mann, 13-6, in the NYSAISAA softball championship on May 25 at Manhattanville College in Purchase, N.Y. The victory marks six straight state titles — three was the previous record — and the first in a year in which the Blue Devils (10-4) did not win the Ivy title.

It was a game that had more twists and turns than a season of 24 — kind of like Poly’s season in a nutshell. The Blue Devils went ahead 2-0 in the first inning and Jacquie Kennedy hit a booming double to deep center field and scored on an error to make it 4-0 in the third.

Horace Mann (14-1) got right back in the game with three in the fifth on RBI doubles by Clara Hill and Sydney Ginsberg, but Poly answered. Jacquie Chirdo found a hole with a run-scoring single and Claire Regan got hit by a pitch, forcing in a run in the sixth to make it 6-3. In the bottom of the inning, Sarah Sicular smacked an RBI single, Sophie Miller drove in a run with a groundout and Paige McMahon’s bunt brought home Sicular, who dove in under the tag head first.

Just like that, things were all tied at 6. That’s when Poly eighth grade ace Amanda Grossman pulled herself — and the team — together. The diminutive yet crafty lefty did not allow a hit the next three innings and gave the Blue Devils ample opportunitiesto score.

In the seventh, Poly loaded the bases with no outs and came up empty. In the eighth, the Blue Devils put two runners on — nothing. Things didn’t look good. Mann’s Paige McMahon walked in the bottom of the inning and coach Ray Barile put in speedy Frances Kronenberg with the intention of getting her into scoring position. But Kennedy gunned her down from behind the plate trying to steal.

That intensity came out again in the ninth. Sophomore center fielder Kerri Saputo led off with a walk, Kennedy bunted her over and junior second baseman Lindsay Holcomb drove her in with a single to unbreak the tie. The Blue Devils weren’t done there either. They scored six more runs in the inning.

“We always find confidence and ways to look at the best of a situation,” Grossman said.

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